I hope and pray that you have a meaningful Christmas season. Let the Christmas story and impact of Jesus Christ coming in the flesh grip you this year and shape your Christmas experience.
That’s tough though isn’t it. We get wrapped up (pun intended) in all of the stuff that we have to do and get and get ready for our Christmas experience that we have a hard time slowing down enough to remember Jesus and His gift to us. It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of trying to make each Christmas bigger or better than the last one too. Which leaves me with the question of are we living for Christmas? Or is there a way to live out of Christmas?
Living For Christmas
It’s interesting if you compare a traditional calendar with a church calendar. They don’t really match up. I don’t mean actual dates, but seasons and beginning/ending points. Our traditional, Gregorian calendars start with January and end with December. Christmas is the end of a year and a season. But in a church calendar, the year starts with Advent which starts usually in the first week of December and ends 12 months later at the end of November. Now, that’s not a huge difference, but it does lend toward a shift in our attitude.
If you’re living life using the traditional calendar (which we technically all are, I get it), you spend each year from New Year’s looking forward to Christmas and thinking about what presents you’ll get your loved ones. Especially as it gets closer, your planning and lists get longer and longer. Schedules and vacations start to revolve around Christmas parties and when school gets out. The focus is much more on what we do and what we get than on what Christmas is all about. All of focus is leading up to and aiming toward living for Christmas.
Living Out of Christmas
Now, I’m not suggesting that we start our calendar years on December 1st or worse yet on the somewhat shifting beginning of Advent. That would be a mess. However, there is something about the flow of the church year. When you start with Advent (the expectation and hope of what it means) then the rest of the year doesn’t focus on Christmas. Christmas is the next thing and is right at the beginning of the church year. Christmas ends up becoming a launch pad instead of a destination. It can set the tone for the rest of the year.
I believe that it has the potential to minimize our consumerism too. If we take Christmas as a starting point and focus on the message and meaning of Christmas more then the focus is much more on what God does for us than what we can somehow get from God or from someone else.
We are loved and cherished by God the Father above everything else. This is why He sent His Son, Jesus. Not to demand more from us, but to give to us life, forgiveness, and acceptance. He came to give us an identity that is based in Himself and a family that will never fail us. Jesus came in the flesh to identify with our temptations and struggles. He came to renew all things and restore the brokenness of creation one person at a time. Jesus came to take the sin of the whole world upon Himself including yours and mine so we wouldn’t have to bear the guilt, shame and punishment of it all.
This is the focus of Christmas. It’s the starting point of God doing amazing and life changing things for the whole world.
Making the Shift
So, how do we get there? How do we change our view on Christmas? It doesn’t happen with a changing of your calendar. It doesn’t necessarily happen with buying less gifts or doing less stuff at Christmas either. Maybe it could help, but that’s not the answer. It happens by resting. Resting in God’s promises, focusing on what He has done and what that means for you. It means resting in knowing that God has started and finished all of the work that needed to be done so that we could be accepted by the Father. It’s about resting and knowing that there is nothing we can do to earn His love and there is nothing we can do that will diminish the love that He has for us. His love is perfect and complete. And this love and acceptance God has is for you.
So I truly do pray and hope that you have a great Christmas. And I hope that you see it in a meaningful way so that it’s the start of a great year for you.